I received a sweet email from a woman regarding my Stop the Lemon Drops! post. She was concerned that her friend was dismissing my claim that water and lemon essential oil don't mix because I didn't cite research. I was taken aback. Anyone who puts a drop of lemon essential oil in their water can clearly see that it does not disperse and floats to the top. The fact that a hydrophobic substance doesn't disperse in a liquid is a fundamental scientific fact that is taught in first grade, maybe even early childhood. If I have to cite research to prove that, then it is obviously that the skeptic is not an umbrella.
What is an umbrella?
Well, it is a device used to cover yourself in the rain. Just kidding. In this context, I am referring to this quote:
The mind works like an umbrella. It doesn't work unless it's open.
If you need research to back every statement you see, then you are not being open-minded. You can find value in something, even if it is not backed by research. Experience matters too.
Now, let me explain. I love me some research. I'm a big fan of pubmed.org and aromatherapy books that cite research. You can tell that just by reading my research article that was published to the School of Aromatic Studies' blog. But research is not the end all, be all, of aromatherapy advice. It is not what I solely rely on when discussing aromatherapy. Research is merely a guideline of what has been proven to work in certain circumstances. That doesn't mean it is the ONLY thing that works. And just because something doesn't have research to back it, doesn't make it an invalid statement. And still, just because something doesn't work for you, doesn't mean it's not true for others.
For example, let's take Clary Sage. If you look at its molecular structure alone, it would not necessarily have the effect that it does have on the female reproductive system. But it does have an affinity to it and many women have found it to be useful in several capacities. (See my linked article above for details.)
Let's look at the claim that some essential oils have fever reducing abilities. I was taught that essential oils such as peppermint, melissa, and black pepper are febrifuges (fever reducers). Yet, I have seen those in the aromatherapy industry dismiss it just because it hasn't worked for them. I can attest to the fact that it HAS worked for me and others I know. It is listed as a therapeutic property with reputable companies such as Stillpoint Aromatics, Pompeii, and Aromatics International. So why are these claims being dismissed?
Are my essential oils my go to option to reduce fever? Nope. I personally let fevers play out without intervention unless the fever reaches high levels. I would not use essential oils as a fever reducer in children due to safety concerns. I honestly don't even recommend this method to adults. But in my experience, I have seen anecdotal evidence that it can slightly reduce fevers and components such as menthol has been researched for its cooling effects. Therefore, it does work. It just may not be the best method.
Now, before you get all up in arms, I want to point out that just because your EXPERIENCE has found something to work, doesn't necessarily equate it as SAFE. As I mentioned in my Lemon Drops blog, I hear a lot of people say they drink lemon water daily without any issues. Or there is no scientific proof that it is unsafe. Well, this is where your research and experience need to merge. Lemon essential oil consists mostly of limonene, which is a known solvent and is flammable.
Put together the facts that essential oils are hydrophobic (water repelling) and that limonene is a flammable solvent. Don’t know why you would want to ingest a flammable solvent in something that is not properly coated just because there is not a scientific study out there specifically addressing it. I don't need research to tell me that. See this is where research has to meet experience. Chemistry tells me that lemon essential oil is comprised mostly of d-limonene. Research showed me what that compound does. My experience tells me that I would not want to swallow any solvent without a proper carrier.
There are a few things to be aware of when it comes to aromatherapy research. Research on essential oils is usually done in-vitro and on animals. This may or may not carry over to human experience. Many times, the administration of a dose is done through injection or through oral use, which are not typically aromatherapy uses. Therefore these are guidelines, not absolutes. You should be aware of the cautions that the research tells us and use discernment.
Anecdotal evidence has its place in holistic health as well. Let's go beyond aromatherapy and look at energy work. Is there scientific evidence how this works? Not a whole lot that I've seen. However, you cannot dismiss the anecdotal evidence that modalities, such as Reiki, are effective approaches. In fact, the American Cancer Society has Reiki sessions listed as a supportive therapy for cancer patients. Reiki Masters perform sessions in hospitals. So there has to be something more to it than research has been able to show.
Aromatherapy is a science AND an art. You can't rely solely on research. You cannot rely soley on experience. It needs to be guided by both. Research can only take you so far. It does not mean something is going to happen, it means it is more likely. Experience can only take you so far because your experience may be rare or influenced by other factors. If you are only focused on one or the other, you are missing out.
Be an umbrella. Be open to both.